About the Ricoh GR III

This post had to be called “Ricoh GR III review” but I had to change the title, because this won’t be a review after all.

I received my Ricoh GR III some days ago and I started playing with it, doing tests and trying to understand what had been improved and what not. My goal was to determine if it made sense to switch from the older to the newer model.

The GR III is smaller and somewhat lighter than the II, this is noticeable. The changes to the user interface (camera buttons and software menus) were a bothering point at first, because I realised how accustomed I am to the older ones — but this is something that can be overcome quite fast after all, so I went on with my exploration.

At this point something did occur though, and it changed everything. The camera started to get warm. I did some tests, with Shake Reduction on and off, with different scenarios (menus browsing, photos browsing, shooting, a mix of them etc) and the result was always the same. After 10 minutes or so, the camera became quite warm. After 20-30 minutes it was hot. So hot that had no wish to use it. And a camera I have no wish of using is a useless camera, at least for me.

I have to make a point: I live in a place where it is not uncommon to have about 20°C during Xmas time. During summer months we are usually above 30°C and we easily go to 35, 38, even 40°C and more. So, a warm or hot camera is not a good idea for me.

The Olympus Pen-F does warm a bit but it is nothing compared with the Ricoh GR III: for the Pen-F I managed to reduce the heat by turning on the in body stabilisation only during the half press of the shutter, and this helped a lot. With the GR III there is nothing that can be done. The camera is just too small, and it generates too much heat, and as usual the battery is in the grip, so you are grabbing a hot battery all the time.

The LCD also becomes hot, in the upper right corner.

I can’t accept a 900,00 euros camera heating like that. I don’t care about the new features, like the 24 megapixels or the stabilisation, if for enjoying them I must accept the camera becoming hot.

So, my joy after receiving the GR III became disappointment. I did various comparisons with my GR II. It goes without saying that the GR II stays cool no matter how much I use it. But what about the image quality?

First of all, the GR III has better ISO performance. On the GR II I don’t want to go above 1600 for color photography, while the GR III seems usable at 3200 and maybe 6400 if we are not too picky. This means 1 or 2 stops of difference, depending on your tolerance for noise. The difference in resolution is there but not so important: the jump from 16 to 24 is welcome but not a game changer.

Another thing that disappointed me is the new Image Control that took the place of the Effects. On the GR II we have less parameters for each effect, so it is much easier and faster to experiment with them. On the GR III they added many more parameters and I don’t like this at all. The look of the included “effects” is also different, so I could not replicate my Positive Film and Hi-Contrast B&W from te GR II. This is a huge problem for me. I tried to play with the sliders, doing tests side by side with the GR II, but the effect behaviour was always different in some ways.

At this point I kept looking at my GR II, thinking: why am I going through all this? Wasting time trying to get what I already have (the effects and image quality). Dealing with heat when I never had to before. And so on. I questioned myself: are 1 or 2 stops of ISO efficiency enough? Are 8 more megapixels enough? Is IBIS enough?

For me, the answer was no. So, as much as I love Ricoh/Pentax and no matter how I wanted to love this camera as I love the GR II, I just could not, and I sent the GR III back to the shop.

I am disappointed because Ricoh had in their hands an almost perfect camera. Users only asked for better sealing and a more modern sensor. That’s all. IBIS, touchscreen, more compact size, more complex effects.. who asked for this? And yet they decided to go that way. They removed the flash even if it was a favorite of thousands of GR users. And I could go on. But most than everything: didn’t they realise the camera heats up? Did they only test the camera in winter?

You may wonder why all the reviewers out there didn’t mention the heating problem. If you read in the comments to their videos, they have users complaining about it. If you go to the big photography forums, you find lots of people complain about the issue.

My idea is that either the reviewers tested the camera in a cold environment, so they didn’t really notice the warming, or they decided not to mention the issue because they received the camera from Ricoh and they could not talk honestly. Just see how many reviewers are thanking Ricoh for the test camera, how many were invited by Ricoh to events, etc. Other options are that the reviewers din’t pay attention or that they have a great tolerance for heat!

I consider the GR III an unsuccessful design. I hope Ricoh/Pentax will go back to the roots of the GR concept, producing a simple, reliable camera that is a pleasure to use. They just have to improve the GR II a bit: fix the sealing and dust issue, put a modern sensor. That’s all. Keep the same GR II size, who cares, it will help with heat dissipation and it will allow for a bigger battery. I would have paid 2000 euros for such a camera. But we got the GR III instead.

So my advice for the Ricoh lover or curious is: get a GR II instead. Learn to deal with its ISO. Try to be careful with the dust (I give some advices in my GR II review) and if it gets inside and it becomes an issue too big to be fixed in Photoshop just send it for repair or buy a new GR II, which will become cheaper and cheaper.

This is all I have to say about this camera. I was considering to make at least a photowalk to test it etc, but I really had no wish of spending time using it. The experience of shooting the camera was unpleasant, and this blog is about finding pleasure and satisfaction in photography. I am not a professional reviewer. I am a photographer and I treated the camera from that point of view. The GR III has been unpleasant to use and the improvements it offers over the GR II are not enough to make me accept the heating and some of its changes. Which seems crazy to me, considering how long I waited for it and how much I desired to like it. In the end I just wanted to get rid of it, get back to my GR II and keep shooting.

There will be no Ricoh GR III review, but there will be more posts about the Ricoh GR II, that’s sure. See you around!

23 Comments

  1. Hmmm, that’s the feeling I had started to get from the DPreview fanbase. What a shame. I need a carry everywhere camera soon. My a7III is a great camera but it’s not one I can have with me all the time…

    1. Author

      Yes I did read the comments over there. I just can’t understand the fanbase behaviour. I adore the Ricoh GR II, I like Ricoh and Pentax as companies for what they did and they still usually do, but if one of their products is not good I have no problems saying so.

      The Sony A7III is a great camera indeed! I tried it but the ergonomic is not right for me. Technology wise it is a very impressive camera though.

      At the moment I keep the Nikon full frame system for work and the Ricoh GR II and Olympus Pen-F for my personal photography, but since the GR II is always in my pockets it is what I tend to use the most.

      1. I”ve recently bought grii based on your review and i’m really hlad that I did that. What a awesome little camera. I’ve had Fuji x100 in the past but this one Is more pocketable as this should be my main travel camera. Could you share your Positive color and b&w filter settings?
        Thank you

        1. Author

          Hi there, I am glad you are enjoying your new GR II! If you scroll throw the comments there are some replies I made with info about these settings and more. To make it short: I shoot color in Positive Film with +7 on everything and weak vignetting (sometimes I bring down saturation if necessary). For B&W I use High Contrast B&W with contrast on MAX and vignetting on Weak. About sharpness: if you want a more realistic film look, bring down sharpness from +7 to 0 or +2, something like that. Have fun! 🙂

  2. Thank you Andrea for your honesty about the Gr3. Its very disappointed the new camera. Especially for the money. Its shows how incredible the GR 2 still is as camera. And yes not only for street photography it has so much more possibilities then making boring pictures of strangers. You showed what you can really do with this little gem. I consider the x100f but personally i dont like the colours and the gr 2 is really discrete and the autofocus is in daylight the same. Looking forward to see more items of the Gr 2! Hopefully learn Ricoh her lesson!!

    1. Author

      Thank you Pim. In reality I have to say, I think I didn’t even start to show what the GR II can do 🙂 I am glad I can show the versatility of this camera. Just some days ago I did read a reviewer saying the GR is not versatile and it is strictly for street photographers. That’s nonsense. I hope Ricoh will recover from the GR III and will produce something better in future, though I fear they won’t… the loyal fanbase is a negative element, because they will still buy the camera and ignore its issues, so Ricoh won’t be pressed to improve. The GR occupies a very small niche market, so it has to be close to perfection and meet the requests of that niche if it wants to survive. They removed the flash, they made the camera heat, they made its menus/effects more complex, they made the battery last less: all things against the market expectations. I have to say, I’ve never been more disappointed with a camera. I really wanted it to be better than the GR II, and it simply is not, for me.

      1. Yes im really surprised that some people so loyal to Ricoh. If i heard that a quy said that this is the best camera ever…. the same quy who you mention about the high iso settings. I had the Ricoh Gr and i sold it but luckily i have the Gr 2. And i dont care about high iso values. Even iso 3200 is still useable. And look to the sensor of the x100f compare with the original X100. The X100 beat the X100f with organic colours. I have not to high expectations of a new Gr in the future. But thats more reason to love the Gr 2 more and more!

        1. Author

          Yes I did read and watch the review by Kim. I am not a fan of his work nor of his opinions, I have to say. I also don’t especially trust reviews stuffed with affiliate links.

          A comment under his video addresses the matter quite good:

          “Can’t believe how unreliable this review is. Only good thing is the IBIS in low light. Battery life is ridiculously short, the camera heats quite a bit by normal use, lack of flash, film simulations are not the same as the previous models (worst IMO)”

          I have to sadly agree with that comment.

          1. Im mean of course useful in relation to iso 3200😃

  3. Have you used the GR3 with the lastest firmware? From my epxerience , even during the brief heatwave we had here in NYC, no heating issue with the my copy. In the begining when I did have some heating but it wasn’t enough of a discomfort for me to not use it. After the subsiquetent updates, I’ve noticed not only an improvement in AF espeically in low light conditions, but overrall performance and responsiviness. It may be quite dear in its price now, but for me what it offers is deffinetly worth it, and besides as the holodays roll around, the GR3 will be heavly discounted just like the GR2, which is how I came to purchase one.

    1. Author

      Hi Robert, yes I tested the camera with the latest firmware, the 1.20.

    1. Author

      Apparentemente per rendere la macchina più piccola. Tuttavia non ho mai sentito né letto qualcuno lamentarsi perché la Ricoh GR non era piccola abbastanza, mentre in tanti si lamentavano per l’ingresso della polvere e la mancanza di un isolamento almeno decente per la macchina.

      1. Dai ma che peccato, non avevo letto di questa cosa, per me un punto decisamente a sfavore, anche perchè con un flash esterno perde totalemente di portabilità. Cosa intendi per isolamento? Forse un pro della 3 è lo schermo più grande e luminoso?

        1. Author

          Intendo isolamento dalle intemperie — umidità, polvere, acqua. Una macchina così portatile beneficerebbe parecchio di una resistenza almeno parziale agli agenti sterni. Invece la GR è abbastanza esposta, e specie tramite l’azione pneumatica della lente in movimento risucchia polvere ed umidità. È un difetto ormai risaputo, a mio avviso il solo difetto della GR/GRII. A quanto pare Ricoh non sa o non vuole risolverlo.

          Lo schermo della GR III è in formato diverso (3:2 invece di 4:3) e un po’ più luminoso, ma non ho notato grande differenza. Piuttosto ho notato che i due schermi sono calibrati diversamente. Quello della GR III è più freddo, la cosa è evidente specialmente scattando in bianco e nero.

  4. Sounds like you had a faulty model. Mine gets slightly arm if I leave it on, but nothing excessive even in the mini heatwave we had last week.
    I find the camera so much better than the previous model that I haven’t touched that one since. Might get it converted to IR.
    The effects are much better than the previous version too. The Hard-BW is excellent. It’s probably closest to the old High Contrast BW but so much better.
    The size is better, the controls better laid out, and it’s so much more responsive.
    Sorry you seem to have had a dodgy one.
    Looking forward to your Pen-F review as I have this one too. I find the GRIII black and whites even better than the Pen-F and that’s saying something!

    1. Author

      I am glad you enjoy your GR III 🙂 we are all different so what might be much better for you can be much worse for me, and it’s all fine. About the heating, it could be mine had some kind of issue but I did hear many reports of excessive warming both online and from photographers I know in person, so I have doubts it’s that. Or maybe there are many faulty ones, and that’s still not acceptable for a camera of this price and heritage. I hope you will enjoy the Pen-F review!

  5. Hi Andrea, I can not help but think you got a dud of a copy of this camera…perhaps with a faulty heat sink. Mine has a slight warmth to it but nothing even close to being hot.
    In regards to the negatives (and yes it has them, I am no extreme fanboy), I would have thought you might have singled out the dismal battery life.
    Yes, there are some things I would like to see but not at that the expense of the size (faster lens, tilting LCD or pop up EVF) but I realize there is always a compromise.
    I do have to say I cringed when I saw your statement, “I am disappointed because Ricoh had in their hands an almost perfect camera. Users only asked for better sealing and a more modern sensor. That’s all. IBIS, touchscreen, more compact size, more complex effects.. who asked for this? ” Perhaps you did not ask for these items but others can and do find them useful. If they had not added these items no doubt Ricoh would have been criticized for not including them by others.
    If the heat you experienced with the first camera is your main objection, I would say get one more and see if that was just a bad copy. However, if there are just too many “dealbreakers” with version 3 then I would understand sticking with version 2.
    I do look forward to your comments about the Pen-F. While I do not own it, I have OM-D E-M10 II and have considered getting the Pen-F. If it performs as good as it looks I just may be tempted to get one.

    1. Author

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comment! I’m sorry you cringed about that part, I just reported the direct experience of tens of GR users I know in real life and on the web, both old timers and new users; it seemed reasonable to me to treat such a varied sample of users as something significative. You know, I don’t think someone would have criticised Ricoh for not including IBIS or more complex effects in the GR III, but it’s quite evident the amount of disappointment with the removal of the flash and the lack of better sealing. About the heat: I tried 2 different GR III from 2 shops. They behaved the same. It could be they were from the same batch, though I find it a weird coincidence, cos one was imported from Germany and the other was not. I do think the heating is part of the camera: what changes is the user tolerance to that heating, and the temperature of the environment that can amplify or mask the issue. We can say I am a big GR fan, as I think is quite obvious from my GR II review, but I still don’t want to use a camera that warms/heats so easily and that includes other changes I don’t like, especially when the GR II I own is still such an amazing camera.

      I hope you will enjoy the Pen-F review! I am still putting together some photos and thinking if to include a more general m43 digression or not. I also had an EM10 (mark I) before the Pen-F! The update was substantial, though many things felt the same.

      Thanks for reading the blog!

  6. Really sorry to hear about heat issue, before I bought mine had contact with Matthias Burling, man really loved his GR2, then bought a 3, now uses that as his main Ricoh, if you get a chance take a look at his videos.Think you will find a dedicated individual as you are, in the quest for the best photography one can obtain. Love your blog and look forward to more posts. As for my next GR purchase I will have to check on this heat issue see if resolved before my October birthday surprise to myself.

    1. Author

      I love Mattias videos, I follow him since many years 🙂 I very often agree with him, well most of the times really! I like his attitude toward photography gear, and he has a very good eye for light and exquisite taste in editing. I saw that in the comments to the GR III video he says he noticed no warming, but he published the review in April and he lives in Sweden. I did my tests in summer and I live in a very warm (hot!) island, so the warming can easily become an issue. I just could not accept that level of heating for a camera that costs a thousand euros and that is in the end adding not much I care about to my GR II. I really hope Ricoh will sort heating out in next GR… but we will hopefully see that in 3-4 years!

      Don’t take my word for the heating of course: I suggest you get the camera and play with it for a while, if you have the chance. Many are loving the GR III and it could be it is fine for you too 🙂

  7. I was going to buy the GR III but after reading your comments I wasn’t sure anymore. There are many comments on different sites about the heating phenomena. One person suggested to let the camera “rest” after some shots. Has Ricoh never made a comment about this issue? Anyway, now I am looking at the GR II but still in doubt if I should go for it or wait until Ricoh comes with a solution. Will the GR II be “out of time” soon or will it stay strong for another 3,4,5 years? Do you have any thoughts about this? Oh and by the way: beautiful picture you’ve taken, like them a lot. All the best to you.

    1. Author

      Hi! I’ve to say the suggestion to let the camera rest after some shots is quite hilarious 🙂 I would not like spending 900 euros on a camera and having to let it rest every 30 min or so (and for how long anyway?) until it becomes comfortable to use it again!

      I don’t think Ricoh made a statement about this and to be honest I don’t expect them to do so. I also don’t think firmware can fix it. The camera is very small, the battery is right in the little grip, the stabilisation of an APS-C sensor and the sensor itself produce lots of heat. There is nothing firmware can do about it.

      If we look at the GR II and we compare it to 2019 technology, the only downside is the performance of the sensor with high ISO values (that is, from 1600 up). Apart from that, I see no real improvement modern tech could bring to the GR II. IBIS is not essential in this type of camera, and 16 megapixels are more than enough for pretty much everything this camera is intended to shoot. My idea is that a GR II was a great camera in 2015, it is a great camera today in 2019 and will be just as good in a couple of years too.

      My advice as usual is that you try the GR III and the GR II if you have the chance, before buying. Maybe the heat of the GR III will be tolerable for you. Or maybe you will see the GR II will be just perfect for you and so much cheaper. Whatever you choose, I wish you a great time with photography! And thanks so much for your kind words about my photos 🙂

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